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catch forty winks

to have a short sleep


catch forty winks = ein Nickerchen machen --- GOOGLE INDEX (catch, have) forty winks: approximately 200,000 Google hits



The sheer tension and excitement of London's mayoral campaign kicked off for real on Wednesday as people used a meeting of candidates to catch up on paperwork, read the paper or HAVE FORTY WINKS.

(BBC news)

"Well, FORTY WINKS will do you no harm," the Master said, and left me.

- Sylvie and Bruno, by Lewis Carroll

Did you

forty winks

- a short sleep during the day

(Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary)

William Kitchiner was a British optician, inventor, amateur musician and excellent cook during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In his self-help book The Art of Invigorating and Prolonging Life, he suggests that "forty winks" is a path to a longer life:

"Is it not better to go to sleep for half an hour than to go on noodling all day in a nerveless state for any purpose requiring the energy of either the body or the mind? A forty winks nap in a horizontal posture is the best preparative for any extraordinary exertion of either."

We don't know if Kitchener borrowed this phrase or invented it. But winks, as in closing and opening the eyes, has a long association with sleeping. The question is, why use "forty" and not twenty, or even 53 to refer to a nap?

Perhaps this stems from the frequent religious references. Rain fell for forty days and forty nights before the Great Flood. Jesus fasted for the same amount of time while being tempted by the Devil. Goliath challenged the Israelites twice a day for forty days before David defeated him.

Rather than think about this too much longer, have forty winks and dream about something else.


nap, catnap, power nap, rack time, siesta, snooze, catch some Zs

SMUGGLE OWAD into today's conversation

"Researchers now believe workers would be more productive if they had forty winks during the day."

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